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The Case of the Living Dead

The Case of the Living Dead
Missouri Funeral Home Director Pleads Guilty to Faking Death Claims

01/10/05

Missouri funeral home

The elderly couple could hardly believe their ears. On the other end of the line, their insurance company kept insisting they were dead. The company's records showed they'd both died three months earlier, within weeks of each other. It had already paid out nearly $16,000 for their funerals. So began a bizarre case for the FBI and its partners...

In the small town of Unionville, Missouri—just a few miles south of the Iowa border—Roger Newman was killing off people by the dozens.

Newman wasn't using a gun ... or a knife ... or any other murder weapon for that matter. He was doing it all on paper.

Newman, you see, owned and operated a funeral home in Unionville. Bought it in May 2001. The next month, he cooked up a devious (and illegal) plan to fatten his wallet by pretending his clients were dead.

His scheme involved what's called pre-need or pre-paid funeral planning agreements. That's where people take out insurance policies to pay for their eventual funeral expenses. When they die, the money in their insurance fund goes either to their beneficiaries ... or right to funeral home directors, who are often brokers in the deals.

Newman had two ways of turning these agreements to his advantage:
1) He'd fake the death of his clients, submit all the paperwork to their insurance companies, and pocket the payout. To make it work, he sometimes had to forge the real beneficiaries' signatures and change the address on the policy to his own.
2) When customers came to him to set up these pre-paid plans, Newman simply took their money and never bothered to purchase the policy.

It was a lucrative "business." Newman defrauded his clients and the insurance companies out of more than $400,000 from June 2001 to December 2003.

Then the Missouri couple put a stop to it. They reported the incident to police. Early last month, after a joint investigation by the Putnam County Sheriff’s office, the Missouri Attorney General’s office, and our office in Kansas City, Newman pled guilty to five counts of mail and wire fraud. He admitted filing fake death claims for 58 people.

Now, it's the Newman Funeral Home that's history. It was shut down and auctioned off. And as part of his plea agreement, Newman lost his embalming, funeral home, and director's licenses. Never again will he be the grim reaper of insurance payouts.

Link: How to Protect Yourself from Common Fraud Schemes